Made to measure

Posted on 2 May 2008 by The Manufacturer

Taylor Hobson has been producing market-leading precision measurement tools for over half a century. Its latest products and services are bringing the highest standards of metrology to a highly demanding global manufacturing base, Ian Lee-Bennett and Jon Gardiner told Ruari McCallion

Now part of US company AMETEK, Taylor Hobson’s roots go back to 1886, when it began business as a producer of optical lenses for the photographic and film industry. Today, it’s a world leader in measurement tools essential for high specification engineering.

“In the 1940s and 50s, the company began working on ways to improve the quality of optical lenses and developed precision measuring instruments. That’s where our business today came from,” said Ian Lee-Bennett, business development director. Previously owned by the Rank Organisation, after a period as an independent company, it was acquired by AMETEK in 2005. “Optics are our largest market, followed by the auto industry – which grew 25 per cent last year – and then bearings. Our involvement with aerospace is growing, as are the medical and high-tech markets, including data storage and nanotechnology.”

Taylor Hobson makes the instrumentation that measures roundness, form and surface finish and, in doing so, contributes to the efficiency and performance of high-specification products. At the MACH 2008 exhibition Taylor Hobson will be presenting the Talyrond 385, one of its latest fully automated roundness/cylindricity systems. ‘Talyrond 385 is one of our flagship products. As well as roundness and form measurement we’re now offering linear/circumferential surface finish and 3D cylindrical mapping, which keeps it at the forefront of technology,” said Lee-Bennett. “Most other equipment has noise levels so high that it can’t be effectively used for surface finish measurement; high accuracy datums and precise control improve noise level, so precision isn’t compromised.”

2008 also sees the launch of the Talysurf PGI 2540. The company says that its new PGI 2540 surface finish product provides the best resolution in the world in terms of surface profiling. “It can measure vertically to 25mm, but probably the most impressive feature is that it can measure down to 0.2 nanometres. It enables customers to achieve a very high specification finish indeed – probably the best in the world.” Many of today’s precision optics require sub-nanometre surface finish.

“The applications are mainly in the optics area – our key markets in that segment are in the Far East, as well as European and American industries. There are some very high specification lenses in cinema, photography, and also Blu-Ray DVD, CD lenses, mobile phone and digital camera lenses,” he said. Now it begins to make sense: those tiny lenses are capable of phenomenal image quality. But why is the auto industry so interested in ultra-high spec finishing, having got by for decades without it?

“We’ve actually been making roundness products since 1954 and our first PC-based roundness/cylindricity product has been around since 1989. But about three years ago, we developed new architecture and many innovative features that helped us to leapfrog over our competitors,” said Jon Gardiner, product manager. “Our current line is CNC-based and can also measure surface finish – and that’s very unusual. It’s very low noise, has automatic calibration and can take 3D measurements, which allows us to extract more component information. It can measure wear scars on cylinder liners and 3D deformations around oil holes in crank shafts. It’s become very popular in the fuel injection industry, where geometry has become so precise they really challenge roundness and cylindricity measurements. It’s very easy to automate the measurement cycle, which means the customer can achieve high levels of throughput while maintaining higher quality control – and that means the engine can run more efficiently, more reliably, use less fuel and pollute less.”

For the aerospace industry, Taylor Hobson has a number of dedicated instruments, such as SPS 1000. This system is used for optimising alignment of stacked jet engine components. It will enable users to identify vibration and noise problems before they happen, saving the manufacturers build time cost, while flight operators benefit from improved fuel efficiency. Other recent developments include the Talyrond 1600, used to measure roundness of wind turbine bearings up to 1.6 metres in diameter to sub-micron precision; a new non-contact product based on the world leading Talysurf CCI technology but re-engineered to bring that high level of performance within reach of the global manufacturing market; and for the growing smallcompany high-tech and nanotech sector in the UK, high standard measurements are available through the new Centre of Excellence in Metrology for Micro and Nano Technologies (CEMMNT) at the company’s Leicester global HQ. It’s a partnership with the UK Government, QinetiQ, Coventor and BAE Systems. Taylor Hobson also provides UKAS accreditation services for measurement tools and calibration artefacts, and works with customers to help them ensure machines in different sites manufacture to the same specifications.

The measurements Taylor Hobson tools undertake may be small, but they’re perfectly formed.